18 March 2019

A new report from the Grattan Institute highlights the gap between general health care and dental health care in Australia: people of all ages and income levels are more likely to skip or delay dental treatment, and the most significant factor is the out-of-pocket cost. The report puts forward a plan for dental care to be brought into line with Medicare: “There’s no compelling medical, economic, legal or logical reason to treat the mouth so differently from the rest of the body. But it would be impractical to move to a universal scheme overnight. … So, the Commonwealth should announce a roadmap to a universal scheme, including plans to expand the dental health workforce, followed by incremental steps towards a universal scheme.” They estimate the total cost at $5.6 billion, which seems like a big number but is actually only about a 3% increase in the health budget. Universal public dental care is well within our grasp, and Grattan puts forward a credible step-by-step plan for achieving it within a decade.